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suppose, next unto the treasure of His precious body in the Sacrament of the altar, may be accounted among the greatest, and therefore he would labour greatly to his own hurt and to the great heaviness of all others also who would endeavour to prove that there was no such power left by God."1
In the literature of the period, it must be remembered, there is nothing to show that the true nature of a " pardon" or indulgence was not fully and commonly understood. There is no evidence that it was in any way interpreted as a remission of sin, still less that any one was foolish enough to regard it as permission to commit this or that offence against God. Tyndale, indeed, had suggested that by purchasing an indulgence "thou mayest quench almost the terrible fire of hell for three halfpence." But Sir Thomas More meets the point directly. "Nay, surely," he says, "that fire is not so lightly quenched that folk upon the boldness of pardons should stand out of the fear of purgatory. For though the sacrament of penance is able to put away the eternal (nature) of the pain, yet the party for all that has cause to fear both purgatory and hell too, lest some default on his own part prevented God working such grace in him in the Sacrament as should serve for this. So, though the pardon be able to discharge a man of purgatory, yet there may be such default in the party to whom the pardon is granted that although instead of three halfpence he gives three hundred pounds, still he may receive no pardon at all, and therefore he cannot be out of fear of purgatory, but ever has cause to fear it. For no man without a revelation can be sure whether he be partaker of the pardon or not, though he may have and ought to have both in that and every good thing good hope."2
Bishop Gardiner in 1546, in writing against George Joye,
1 Dyaloge in Englyshe, 1531. Part 3, fol. 23.
incidentally makes use of some strong expressions about the granting of pardons for the payment of money, and blames the friars as being instrumental in spreading them. He has been asserting that by every means in his power the devil, now in one way and now in another, attempts to prevent men from practising the good works necessary for salvation. "For that purpose," he says, "he procured out pardons from Rome, wherein heaven was sold for a little money, and to retail that merchandise the devil used friars for his ministers. Now they be all gone with all their trumpery; but the devil is not yet gone, for now the cry is that 'heaven needs no works at all, but only belief, only, only, and nothing else.' " 1
This, after all, was very little more than the abuse which previously was pointed out by the cardinals who, conjointly with Cardinal Caraffa, afterwards Pope Paul IV., had been directed to draw up suggestions for improvement of ecclesiastical discipline. The document drawn up by Caraffa himself was submitted to the Pope by his command, and amongst the points which were declared to need correction were the granting of indulgences for money payments and permission given to travelling collectors, such as the Questors of the Holy Spirit, &c, to bestow " pardons" in return for subscriptions. This, in the judgment of the four cardinals, is likely to lead to misunderstandings as to the real nature of the indulgences granted, to deceive rustic minds, and to give rise to all manner of superstitions.2
Cardinal Sadolet, one of the four cardinals who formed the Papal Commission just referred to, in an appeal to the German princes makes the same adverse criticism about the money payments received for the granting of indulgences. "The whole of Germany," he says, "has
1 Stephen Gardiner. A declaration of such true articles a George Joye hath gone about to confute as false. 1546, f. 2. * Consilium do emendanda ecclesia (Ed. 1538), sig. B 4,
been convulsed by the indulgences granted by Pope Leo X. to those who would contribute to the building of St. Peter's. These indulgences," he says, "and consequently the agents in distributing them, I do not now defend. And I remember that, as far as my position and honour would then allow, I spoke against them when those decrees were published, and when my opinion had no effect I was greatly grieved." He did not, he continued, doubt the power of the Pope in granting the indulgences, but held that "in giving them, the manner now insisted on with every care by the supreme Pontiff, Paul III., ought to be maintained, namely, that they should be granted freely, and that there should be no mention of money in regard to them. The lovingkindness and mercy of God should not be sold for money, and if anything be asked for at the time, it should be requested as a work of piety."1
The above will show that earnest-minded men were fully alive to the abuses which might be connected with the granting of indulgences, and no condemnation could have been stronger than that formulated by the Council of Trent. At the same time, it is clear that the abuses of the system were, so far as England at least is concerned, neither widespread nor obvious. The silence of Sir Thomas More on the matter, and the very mild representations of his adversary, Christopher SaintGerman, show that this is the case. Saint-German's objection was not against the system, but against the same kind of abuses against which subsequently the Fathers of Trent legislated. The reformers attacked not the abuses only but the whole system, and their language has quite unjustly been frequently interpreted by subsequent writers as evidence of the existence everywhere of widespread abuses. In this regard it is well to bear in mind that the translation of the works of the
1 Jacobi Sadoletti, Opera Omnia, Verona (J737), torn, ii., p. 437.
German reformers into English cannot be taken as contemporary evidence for England itself. The cry of the advanced party which would sweep away every vestige of the old religious observances was certainly not popular. One example of a testimony to the general feeling in London is given in a little work printed by one of the reforming party in 1542, when it was found that Henry VIII. did not advance along the path of reformation marked out by the foreign followers of Luther as quickly as his rejection of papal supremacy and the overthrow of the religious houses had caused some people to hope. The tract in question is called The lamentation of a Christian against the Citie of London made by Roderigo Mors,1 and some quotations from it wi .a show what view an ardent reformer took of the spirit of Londoners towards the new doctrines. "The greater part of these inordinate rich, stiff-necked citizens," he writes, "will not have in their houses that lively word of our souls2 nor suffer their servants to have it, neither yet (will they) gladly read it or hear it read, but abhors and disdains all those who would live according to the Gospel, and instead thereof they set up and maintain idolatry and other innumerable wickedness of man's invention daily committed in the city of London."
"The greatest part of the seniors and aldermen, with the multitude of the inordinate rich. . . . with the greatest multitude of thee, O city of London, take the part and be fully bent with the false prophets, the bishops and other strong, stout, and sturdy priests of Baal, to persecute unto death all and every godly person who either preaches the word or setteth it forth in writing. . . . O Lord! how blind are these citizens who take so good care to provide for the dead which is not com
'It is said to be "printed at Jericho in the land of Promes, by Thomaf Treuth."
* The English Testament.
manded of them nor availeth the dead.1 . . When they feel themselves worthily plagued, which comes of Thee only, then they will run a-gadding after their false prophets through the streets once or twice a week, crying and calling to creatures of the Creator, or with ora pro nobis, and that in a tongue which the greatest part of them understand not, unto Peter, Paul, James and John, Mary and Martha: and I think within a few years they will (without Thy great mercy) call upon Thomas Wolsey, late Cardinal, and upon the unholy (or as they would say holy) maid of Kent. Why not, as well as upon Thomas Becket? What he was, I need not write. It is well known.2
"And think ye not that if the Blessed Virgin Mary were now upon earth and saw her Son and only Redeemer robbed of His glory, which glory you blind citizens give to her, would she not rend her clothes, like as did the Apostles, for offering oblations with their forefathers' kings' heads unto the Queen of Heaven? How many queens of Heaven have ye in the Litany? O! dear brethren, be no longer deceived with these false prophets your bishops and their members."8
"The great substance which you bestow upon chantries, obits, and such like dregs of . . . Rome, which most commonly ye give for three causes, as ye say, first, that you will have the service of God maintained in the church to God's honour, and yet by the same service is God dishonoured, for the Supper of the Lord is perverted and not used after Christ's institution . . . and the holy memory turned into a vain superstitious ceremonial Mass, as they call it, which Mass is an abominable idol, and of all idols the greatest; and never shall idolatry be quenched where that idol is used after antichrist's institution . . . which no doubt shall be reformed when the time is come that God hath appointed, even as it is